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British Team Repairs Masada Palace

October 21, 1998

JERUSALEM (AP) _ A team of British conservationists is organizing emergency repairs on one of Israel’s best-known archaeological sites, King Herod’s Masada palace.

The 2000-year-old palace, perched on a desert mountaintop near the Dead Sea, is vulnerable to erosion by wind, sand, water and salt, a spokeswoman for Israel’s Nature Reserves Authority said Wednesday.

The conservationists are trying to combat the effects of the weather on the palace’s soft limestone. Erosion has hollowed out many of the stones, and some have collapsed, Mazy Magnazi said.

Masada was the last outpost of zealots during the Jewish revolt against Rome that began in A.D. 66. The zealots held off Roman legions for three years and committed mass suicide to avoid enslavement.

Rather than replace the palace’s weather-worn stones, the conservationists are trying to preserve its original facade by filling in the damaged stones with pieces of similar limestone.

Frescoes, decorative plaster and Herod’s private bathhouse _ which is in danger of sliding off the cliff’s eastern edge _ are also slated for emergency repairs.

The British team will leave Israel on Saturday, but Israeli conservationists will continue working, Magnazi said.

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